Theses Doctoral

Development of a genetically encoded site-specific fluorescent sensor of human cardiac voltage-gated sodium channel inactivation

Shandell, Mia

Genetic mutations perturbing inactivation of human cardiac voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs), specifically Nav1.5, can cause long QT syndrome type 3 (LQT3). LQT3 is a cardiac disorder in which patients experience syncope and ventricular tachyarrhythmia, and are thus predisposed to sudden cardiac death. Deeper understanding of the structural dynamics of VGSC inactivation is needed to inform treatment of and drug design for potentially life-threatening arrhythmias. A well supported hypothesis is that the VGSC inactivated state is stabilized by hydrophobic interactions between the inactivation gate and an unknown binding site potentially involving the underside of the channel pore, C-terminus (C-T), and auxiliary proteins. Despite advances in biophysical and structural characterization of VGSCs, the specific molecular components and timing of their interactions within the inactivation complex remain unclear. Fluorescence imaging approaches that connect conformational change with channel function in mammalian cells could provide much needed mechanistic insight on the structural dynamics of the VGSC inactivation complex. This thesis describes the development of a site-specific fluorescent unnatural amino acid (UAA) labeling and spectral imaging methodology to probe the cardiac VGSC, Nav1.5, inactivation complex in live mammalian cells. First, UAA mutagenesis experiments were performed to validate orthogonal synthetase-tRNA (aaRS-tRNA) technology for fluorescent labeling of intracellular and membrane proteins in mammalian cells. Next, towards investigating conformational dynamics and intramolecular interactions related to inactivation, the Nav1.5 inactivation gate was labeled with a single environmentally sensitive fluorescent UAA L-anap. While the function of L-anap labeled channels was altered, their function remained within pathophysiological range. Then, imaging of L-anap labeled Nav1.5 in mammalian cells afforded characterization of unique L-anap spectra at different sites in the inactivation gate. Finally, using potassium-depolarization (K-depolarization) as rough means of voltage control, L-anap spectral shifts demonstrated conformational changes between the closed and open-inactivated states, which depended on the presence of the distal C-T (DCT). Site-specific L-anap labeling of the inactivation gate combined with spectral imaging and K-depolarization affords a general imaging assay to directly monitor conformational rearrangements of the Nav1.5 inactivation gate in channels expressed in live mammalian cells. While interactions with the DCT are specifically probed, this general assay provides an opportunity to bring necessary unification of ideas about VGSC inactivation, as well as insight on outstanding questions of VGSC regulation.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Pharmacology and Molecular Signaling
Thesis Advisors
Cornish, Virginia W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 1, 2017